Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spinach, Mushroom, Bacon & Hard-Boiled Salad With Warm Dressing...and strawberry harvest begins!

Raw salads in France tend to be basic affairs--mostly salad greens served with vinaigrette.  When working in New York City, I loved going to a nearby Greek-American, family-owned coffee shop to enjoy various hearty, main-meal salads, such as Cobb, Chef, and Spinach/Mushroom.

Though I could choose any dressing from many, there was no warm dressing on the menu which would slightly wilt the spinach leaves.  With such an ample spinach harvest because of the prolonged, cool, rainy spring, my focusing on finding ways to serve this bounty affords the opportunity to make such a dressing.  Of course, sauteed spinach in itself is a delightful accompaniment to meals.

Sauteed spinach sidling up to chicken pot pie

If more oomph is desired, top with Parmesan shavings.

Using a potato peeler, scrape off slivers of Parmesan.

For each serving for a hearty spinach salad, you will need two slices of fried bacon (more if so desired), two large hard-boiled egg, four large, white mushrooms, several thin onion slivers, about eight ounces of baby spinach leaves (the small center leaves of larger clumps can be substituted).  For the dressing, you will need one tablespoon of reserved bacon fat, one tablespoon of Sherry vinegar (yes, I know other vinegars do exist, but sherry is soooooo nice), salt to taste, and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, plus paprika and fleur de sel for garnishing.

While the eggs are boiling, wash and dry the spinach well.  Wrap the leaves in a tea cloth and keep in the fridge.  Doing this will result in crisp greens, and I do this for all salad greens.  If they are to remain overnight in the fridge, I will put the towel-wrapped greens in a large plastic bag.  Peel cooled eggs, slice into thick rounds, and set aside.

Fry the bacon, reserving the amount of fat required.  Blot the bacon with paper towels.  When cooled, crumble or cut into bite-sized pieces.

While the bacon is frying, slice some onion slivers and the mushrooms and put them into a suitable sized serving bowl.  Gather vinegar, salt, and mustard and keep close to the stove.

In a small saucepan over a moderate flame, heat the bacon drippings, vinegar, salt, and mustard till the dressing is hot.

Pour it over the spinach and add the bacon and toss well. Top with the hard-boiled egg rounds and sprinkle them with paprika. Dust with fleur de sel and serve immediately. The rich coating takes a bit of the fluff out of the leaves, making the salad more substantial and sleek.  The combination of textures and flavours is delectable.

In the potager, the strawberry harvest has begun thanks to a few days of sunshine. The first flush of gariguettes were picked, a lovely variety whose 'belly button' is an 'outie', thereby making hulling a cinch.

With the combination of less sunshine than usual along with a lot of rain, this season's harvest is not as sweet, but the berries are way more juicier. It is such a nice treat to pick them and immediately plunk them down in a bowl of cereal.

Crumbled-up Weetabix!

And when in doubt to what to do with strawberries, just add Crème Chantilly.

My whittling down the hefty supply of potted seedlings waiting to be transplanted continues--most of the thirty tomato plants are in the ground. It's best to dig first a practice hole, placing the rooted tomato transplant in it to make sure that the level of the bed will be just underneath the first set of true leaves.  Tomato plant stems will sprout roots if planted, unlike most other plants.  In this way, a robust root system is encouraged.  If the lower stem is not planted and if there is a great deal of rain, you may be able to see these root buds forming, looking like solid, green bubbles.  A neighbour had thought they were evidence of a malady!

The lower stem is well buried.

The first, fat pea pods are appearing.

Mrs. Sinkins (a very fragrant cottage pink) comes to my aid, holding a picked pod so I can photograph it.

Though the delicate petals of roses get a bit damaged by all the rain, they still love long drinks of water.

The only yellow rose in the garden--Golden Showers.

The flowers and the grass continue to be very happy with all this moisture.

Feathery, light-green plant on the left is fennel, with a flowering sage directly to its right.

This atypical spring has encouraged a brave Calla lily to bloom.

Usually, hot, dry spring weather fries not just their flowers, but also their lush foliage.

Dayo's paw injury is much better, but he still needs to stay indoors for at least several more days.  He has swapped his garden chores with housework.

He is helping to smooth out the freshly changed bed linens.

À la prochaine! 


Sauteing spinach
Individual top crust strawberry & dark-chocolate ganache pies
How to make strawberry jam
Strawberry heart scones
Eton Mess (how to make strawberry coulis)
Stuffed jumbo strawberries
Freezing surplus strawberries
How to make chicken pot pie